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Speech delivered by CMHR President and CEO Stuart Murray at the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Club Annual General Dinner Meeting, June 9, 2013

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…thank you for that introduction.

Good evening!

On behalf of my colleagues at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, my sincere thanks to the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Club of Winnipeg for inviting me to join you this evening.

Merci d'être présent. Je suis content d'être parmi vous ce soir et pouvoir vous partager des nouvelles sur les droits de la personne.

Many of us were together the January before last, when I had the privilege of bringing remarks to the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Club during Malanka.

I remember very well the conversation over dinner that evening because we were talking about the Museum…

…and it was right around the time that the construction was far enough along that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was really starting to take on a recognizable shape.

Watching all that steel and stone come together was really something. It was an exciting time because it really felt that a heck of a lot of progress had been made since the first shovel hit the ground.

But, you drive or walk by the building now and two years seems like a lifetime ago.

What stands today isn't a shell, but an architectural achievement that is truly unlike any other, whether in Canada or the world.

It really is awe-inspiring, especially when you go and see it up close. And it's a testament to how far we've come in taking what was once only an idea and bringing it to life.

I want to thank the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Club not only for your interest in the Museum, but for your partnership in making the Museum a reality.

After our Malanka celebration the Club donated the evening's proceeds to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

That kind of generosity is the sole reason the Museum has risen, and it's the sole reason that we have been able to confirm that our doors will open to the world next year.

Thank you. Merci.

Tonight I'd like to share a bit about what we plan to achieve at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights –– the vision and aspirations for this project.

But I want to begin by speaking about the distinctly Ukrainian and Ukrainian-Canadian content that you'll find inside the Museum.

We know there are some inaccurate descriptions floating around of the way Ukrainian stories will be told inside the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

I think you deserve to hear me speak clearly and openly about exactly how the Museum will explore these issues.

We are very proud of the fact that the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has consulted widely on every major content and programming decision.

This includes many very fruitful meetings and an ongoing dialogue with the Ukrainian community. In our view, the relationship has been invaluable.

At the end of the day, however, it's the Museum alone that must be accountable for the exhibits and programs we deliver…

…and so I think it's important that you're able to hear directly from me about exactly what you'll find when it comes to Ukrainian content and themes.

Thanks to our partnerships with the Ukrainian-Canadian community, I can tell you today that Ukrainian experiences will be explored within the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in at least ten different ways.

As one very significant example, we've commissioned, as one of our inaugural films, a museum-length documentary on the silence and secrecy surrounding the Holodomor.

We're pursuing this project in direct partnership with our Ukrainian advisors, and it will be a fully original work.

This documentary will look at the power of journalists to either break the silence regarding gross human rights violations, or be complicit in making silence.

In 1933, New York Times journalist Walter Duranty actively minimized the severity and intentionality of the Holodomor.

At the same time, Welsh journalist Gareth Jones and English writer Malcolm Muggeridge were struggling to expose the genocide.

The documentary will explore their respective stories, placed in the context of the larger efforts to impose an official silence regarding the genocide-famine.

In the Museum's largest gallery, which explores Canada's human rights journey, the east and west walls carry a series of eight-foot square static images of seminal Canadian human rights stories. We have one dedicated to exploring First World War internment operations.

Visitors will also be able to use computer stations built right into the gallery to access images, documents and video to get a fuller picture of the violation.

Another very dramatic multi-media installation looks at Canada's internment operations more broadly, encompassing both First and Second World War internments.

The internment of Ukrainian-Canadians will play a significant role in this exhibit because it marked the first in a chain of violations committed under Canada's War Measures Act.

On a large projected area covering the north wall of the gallery, visitors will encounter a "digital canvas," approximately 96 feet across that will feature a video overview of Canadian internments.

Ninety-six feet, incidentally, is nearly 40 percent larger than the screen at your typical movie theatre, so the presentation is intended to be immersive and will certainly be quite striking.

In our "breaking the silence" gallery, you will encounter other interactive tools –– an "interactive study table" -– that will offer primary-source evidence about the Holodomor.

The table will carry high-definition digital images of photographs, original documents and letters, artefacts and other evidence pertaining to the genocide.

The material, informed by research done for the museum by world-renowned Holodomor expert Dr. Andrea Graziosi, will be organized in four categories: the context of the Holodomor in Stalinist policies, the violation itself, efforts to deny and minimize the violation, and the struggle for justice in its aftermath.

We will have a built exhibit that explores the advocacy of the Ukrainian-Canadian community which led to Canadian Parliamentary recognition of the Holodomor as a genocide.

Another exhibit will feature first-hand video testimony from individuals affected by human-rights violations, including the Holodomor, and with a special focus on Canadian Holodomor survivors.

And another interactive exhibit will explore Raphael Lemkin's analysis of the "techniques" of genocide deployed by the Stalinist regime against the Ukrainian nation.

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So: that's just a very high-level overview of some of what you'll find in our inaugural galleries.

But it adds up to this:

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights will explore these issues with permanence, with prominence, and with depth.

And these offerings will together position the Museum as a noted global destination for the study and exploration of these important Ukrainian stories.

When we open our doors we will be opening a new era in the opportunities that Canadians have to learn about the Holodomor, wartime internment, and the connection between Ukrainian-Canadians and human rights in this country.

Quand nos portes ouvriront en 2014, le Musée sera un véritable centre national d'apprentissage au sujet des Ukrainien-Canadiens et les droits de la personne.

In fact, we've already launched some of the work.

The very first official partnership between the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and a cultural organization overseas was the memorandum of understanding we signed last year with the Ukrainian National Holodomor Memorial Museum in Kyiv.

Our very first international partnership.

This relationship laid the foundation for a lecture series we put together with the Kyiv museum and the provincial arm of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

We were very proud to bring world-renowned Ukrainian researchers to Winnipeg, Edmonton and Toronto this past November to present their research to all Canadians.

Their work provides hard evidence that the Ukrainian famine was a deliberate act of genocide.

Not only were these lectures well attended, but the Canadian media took a significant interest in interviewing these scholars about their work and about the Holodomor.

As one of the researchers, Dr. Kulchytskyi, noted: When it comes to bringing human rights issues like the Holodomor to the Canadian public, the Museum is a megaphone.

Certainly, people told us: "You know, the Holodomor doesn't normally get this kind of attention in Canada."

And comments like those only underscore the inherent need and value of a Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

And what I really want to emphasize most this evening is just that:

The need and value of the Museum we're building; the bigger picture of what we believe a Canadian Museum for Human Rights can achieve.

Because as much as we must be inclusive and representative of the stories we ultimately choose to tell…

…the Museum is not a battle for turf between competing groups.

It is a journey toward the light: an effort to build a genuine culture of human rights in this country.

And this is a goal only achievable when we rise above the things that divide us, and instead embrace the inherent humanity that we have in common.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights presents us both with the responsibility and the opportunity to build a future that recognizes and respects the inherent worth and humanity of all.

The Museum stands as a promise that we really can break down the barriers to human dignity and opportunity that still stand in the way of our fellow citizens.

The Museum stands as a promise that while the language of human rights will always include a sober look at humanity's past failings…

…it is also a language of possibility, built on the conviction that we can create a tomorrow that is better than today.

And, the Museum stands as a promise to our kids:

A promise that there will always and forever be a place in Canada that respects and celebrates the right to be who they are…

…where everyone can feel welcome, where everyone has a voice, and where everyone can play a part in building the kind of world that we in this room want our children to inherit.

This is the vision for the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, and we move closer to reaching it with each new step forward we're able to take together.

The core of our offering –– the heart of the Museum experience –– is an inspiring encounter with human rights.
Le cœur de l'expérience que nous proposons au Musée, c'est des rencontres inspirantes avec les droits de la personne.

This means creating a place that above all else is about hope and possibility.

Yes, it's about acknowledging and learning from the past. But more than that, it's about building the future.

We do this at the Museum by creating opportunities for dialogue; opportunities to share our own stories, to learn from each other, and identify what each of us can contribute to this larger goal.

The Museum experience is built not only on an opportunity to learn about human rights, but to participate, interact and have great conversations ––

…conversations that serves to affirm that while we may speak in different dialects and with a different voice…

…the language common to all is the universal language of human rights, and that together we are building a place where that language can be spoken freely.

We are proud to be working with some of the most accomplished and most awarded museum designers in the world on this project…

…and that's helped us fulfill our goal of creating exhibits and programs that will foster and promote dialogue and reflection.

We achieve this by emphasizing within our galleries the Museum's commitment to human rights themes.

This is important.

We have no gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights devoted to any particular ethnocultural community.

All galleries are thematic. And I want to be clear that this includes the Holocaust gallery.

The content of our galleries has been directly shaped by public consultations that have grown to include over four thousand four hundred Canadians, as well as an ongoing dialogue with dozens of advocacy organizations and an external academic peer review of our gallery content.

We believe this to be the broadest and most robust public engagement effort of its kind among any cultural organization in Canada.

It's allowed us to have great confidence when we say that the Museum's offerings are not only thematic, but will fully and fairly reflect the full image of our country and its people.

I want to say, too, that this commitment to consultation and collaboration doesn't end when the Museum opens its doors next year.

As my communications director sometimes says, what we're building now is Museum 1.0.

As the landscape of human rights changes, the Museum too will change.

And so even as we prepare to open the doors to a place that absolutely reflects the vast diversity of Canadian society with respect to background, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability or race…

…we will keep the doors of dialogue wide open so that we can respond not just to today's human rights challenges, but tomorrow's too. 

In real terms, this means an ongoing commitment to the relationships we've built with the more than fifty distinct communities that we are in conversation with now.

That alone is a reflection of the staggering diversity of this country.

We recognize that every community has vitally important stories of human rights struggle.

The job of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is to help identify the common threads in each of them.

It's also our job to bring these human rights stories to life in a way that will have deep and lasting resonance with our visitors.

The Museum is the first cultural organization of its kind to be built in the digital age, and we're proud to say we're taking full advantage of that.

But I want to be clear:

The digital, interactive technologies that we will be using throughout the Museum have one purpose only, and that is to make our subject matter more engaging, more relevant, more accessible and ultimately more human.

In fact, the tools we're using to bring our exhibits to life are as compelling as the content, and we're exceptionally proud of this…

…especially as we look for opportunities to connect our younger visitors with human rights issues in a way that will ensure a meaningful personal connection.

I think it's important that I be very clear on that. Somewhere along the way we began to hear this suggestion that "digital" meant "temporary."

That's not accurate. Not within the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

Rather, "digital" means having something richly compelling and relevant to offer.

It means having exhibits that visitors can explore and manipulate and interact with, which personalizes and deepens the experience.

And it means being able to dramatically expand the reach of our content:

Digital delivery opens new doors to be able to share information, whether in classrooms, on the smartphone you have in your pocket, or with other cultural organizations in Canada or across the world.

We're proud of that.

It also bears mentioning that we will bring the fullest expression of dignity and respect to the positioning of each and every one of our exhibits; especially those that have particularly sensitive or challenging content.

Our architectural partners and museum designers are quite literally among the most recognized in the world, and the physical orientation of exhibits within the museum has been respectful and judicious, to say the least.

But on that note, I want to acknowledge that misunderstandings about this project, whether connected to Ukrainian content or anything else, may exist.

To some extent, that's bound to happen when you have a project of such an enormous scale and when you're dealing with such inherently sensitive subject matter.

Similarly, we recognize that we're not going to be able to make 100% of the people who come through our doors 100% happy.

That's not realistic.

But what we can do is to commit ourselves to continuing in the spirit of communication and collaboration that has guided every aspect of our work so far.

We can open a museum that truly reflects the full diversity of Canada.

And, we can make, and keep, a public commitment to opening a new door in the way Canadians understand a vital part of the story of this country…

…the uniquely Ukrainian stories that offer us both a better understanding of where we've come, and more importantly, continue to impart new lessons even today.

We recognize that we have before us an incredible opportunity.

The opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights marks a once-in-a-generation chance to focus on the big picture;

…to ask ourselves what we want this nation of ours to be…

…and then to commit ourselves to building it.

It's an opportunity that we must seize together, knowing that the reward is a better world for all.

Thank you again for being an essential part of the journey. We'll be glad to take any questions.

Merci. Thank you.